Neil McKay’s top 10 Albums of 2006

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Neil McKay’s top 10 Albums of 2006

LILY ALLEN – Alright, Still (Regal/EMI): The freshest new star of 2006, Allen packed a lyrical bite that was on a par with those other sparkling new arrivals, Arctic Monkeys. Her stream of sarky, withering putdowns about hapless boyfriends was matched to a bunch of ska-influenced tunes that were frothy, fun and packed with hooks.

ARCTIC MONKEYS – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (Domino): Arctic Monkeys captured the zeitgeist like The Jam and Oasis before them on this undisputedly classic, and record-breaking debut. Fantastic words, only marginally less great tunes, while a shrewd refusal to play the usual music business games means they’ve retained an air of mystery.

ROSANNE CASH – Black Cadillac (Capitol): The Cash dynasty is in very safe hands, as Johnny’s daughter produced this career-best effort. A deeply moving, dignified, but never sentimental reflection on the deaths of her father, mother and stepmother, it acknowledged some uncomfortable truths set to a strong set of country/folk tunes.

NEIL DIAMOND – 12 Songs (Sony/BMG): In a good year for grizzled veterans – Bob Dylan, the late Johnny Cash and Paul Simon all released fine albums – Diamond took top billing. Producer Rick Rubin reconnected him with the core of his craft by stripping away all the showbiz schmaltz for an album of songs fit to rank with his best.

DUKE SPECIAL – Songs From The Deep Forest (V2): Snow Patrol may have grabbed all the local (and national) headlines, but this was the best Northern Irish album of the year. Sharing the theatricality and raffish intelligence of Divine Comedy and Rufus Wainwright, Duke Special’s orchestral pop eclipsed both with its easygoing charm and glorious tunes.

GNARLS BARKLEY – St Elsewhere (Warner Bros): Crazy made history as the first-ever download only No.1 single, and its parent album was every bit as good. Packed with hooks, invention and ideas, and fizzing with a scattergun energy, Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo Green cooked up a soulful, hip-hop confection that recalled prime Prince.

MUSE – Black Holes And Revelations (Warner Bros): There is obviously method in Muse’s madness, for, album by album, they are developing into a mighty rock band. This charted a course for the stars (and beyond on the staggering Knights Of Cydonia), defying belief and the laws of gravity by making great pop from the unpromising raw material of prog rock.

TODD SNIDER – The Devil You Know (New Door/Lost Highway): In an overcrowded rootsy singer/songwriter field Snider stood head and shoulders above the competition. Dylan, John Prine and Steve Earle are telling influences, filtered through Snider’s cutting sense of humour and penchant for rattling, good time rock’n’roll.

AMY WINEHOUSE – Back To Black (Island): This was the best British soul album in absolutely ages, a complete package of lovingly recreated Motown/60s girl group sounds, caustic, often excruciatingly honest lyrics, great finger popping tunes and a voice that does sexy and smouldering and dismissive contempt with equal alacrity.

THE ZUTONS – Tired Of Hanging Around (Deltasonic): Most bands hit a wall with their second album, but The Zutons managed to surpass their Mercury-nominated debut. Big, bold choruses rubbed shoulders with razor-sharp riffs, David McCabe’s lyrics added a dark edge, and Stephen Street’s production was both warm and crystal clear.

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